CPS high school students and teachers engaged in various service-learning projects to honor the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Month of Social Action in January 2013. King and fellow civil rights leaders worked tirelessly to bring social change to America. CPS service-learning projects were designed to connect with themes of the civil rights movement and give students a chance to practice civic skills in their communities. Projects during the month included working at neighborhood food pantries, writing letters to the Congress about handgun violence, making peace flags, learning about and practicing peaceful solutions to conflict with members of the Grey Panthers, conducting peace rallies, and more.
Alternatives, Inc. worked with Chicago Academy High School students on restorative justice ideas and strategies. Hope Lassen, a youth worker at Alternatives, helped students understand how to address conflict and rebuild relationships in a safe, restorative manner. One Chicago Academy High School teacher reflected on the students’ experience: The students who went on the trip learned a lot about themselves and felt that it was beneficial to their time. I am excited about the idea of taking methods learned at Alternatives, Inc. and implementing them at Chicago Academy High School.
Westinghouse High School students participated in a Play for Peace project led by Kendra Bostick. Play for Peace is an international organization promoting peace through compassion games and experiential learning activities. One activity - connection circle - allows students to express themselves and find connections with each other. By the end of the activity the students stood linked arm in arm as a symbol of unity. Adyna Jackson, Service-Learning Coach at Westinghouse, said her students gained a lot from the Play for Peace project because they had the opportunity to learn more about each other and discuss problems at their school and potential solutions.
Schurz High School students spent a day with the Illinois Council for Handgun Violence learning about handgun issues and made important connections to the values and work of Martin Luther King. By the end of the project, students wrote letters to legislators addressing issues such as bullying, domestic violence and handgun violence. A few of the students mentioned how they never had much of a chance to discuss these problems before or take specific steps to address them.
Other CPS students volunteered at the DuSable Museum of African American History on King Day, worked with Kids Off The Block on a violence prevention campaign, joined the Council on American and Islamic Relations on an anti-discrimination campaign, and served senior citizens breakfast and interviewed them about their own experiences during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
More than 20 students groups from CPS participated in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Month of Social Action. They learned about the work of King and the civil rights leaders by exploring various organizing strategies, connected their learning to work in their communities, and participated in follow-up discussions to debrief their experiences. King said that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” CPS students lived out that faith during January by working in their communities to bring more understanding, more compassion, more justice.